Motion on “Maximizing the effectiveness of the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge and promoting the synergistic development of Guangdong, Hong Kong and Macao” (2023.06.07)

MR CHAN KIN-POR (in Cantonese): Thank you, President. The Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge (“HZMB”), the world’s longest sea-crossing bridge-cum-immersed tube tunnel structure, was completed in 2018 and was once rated by foreign media as one of the “seven wonders in the modern world”. However, it can be said to have come at a wrong time as it, after experiencing the “black-clad violence” and the pandemic, has not been able to give full play to its expected benefits and achieve its expected traffic volume. Today, the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area (“GBA”) has ridden out the stormy weather, and the connectivity of GBA is gaining momentum. In particular, the “Northbound Travel for Hong Kong Vehicles” scheme (“the Scheme”) will also be launched officially on 1 July. I am grateful to Mr Adrian Pedro HO for proposing today’s motion, so that the Legislative Council can discuss how to promote the development of HZMB.

Today, I would like to focus on the issue of the northbound travel for Hong Kong vehicles. The Scheme has finally been implemented after having been studied for three years. Private cars can now travel between Hong Kong and Guangdong via HZMB, with a stay of no more than 30 days. Initially, there are only 200 to 300 quotas available per day. There are comments that the Scheme facilitates Hong Kong residents’ self-driving to the Guangdong Province for business, visiting families or sightseeing on a short-term basis, and clears the main artery of GBA, so it is an important step towards promoting the mutual connectivity. Strengthening the free flow of people, funds and commercial activities will reduce regional and time constraints and progressively promote connectivity among various industries. On the other hand, young people enjoy self-driving tours, and now they have the opportunity to see the situation in the country through self-driving tours, thereby gaining an understanding of the country and GBA. It indeed serves as a good opportunity for national education.

The Scheme has been very popular, with 17 000 applications in the first round, but only 1 600 were successful in the balloting. Due to the overwhelming response, some issues have arisen. Firstly, the quotas are severely insufficient. While it is natural to be cautious when quotas are opened up initially, more quotas should be provided in the long run; otherwise, the goal of enhancing connectivity cannot be achieved. Macao has already taken a step ahead of Hong Kong in the northbound travel for vehicles, with its daily quota increased to 2 000. If calculated based on population proportion, the future quota for Hong Kong in this regard should be increased to at least several thousand to 10 000. Additionally, the vehicles participating in the Scheme need to undergo inspection beforehand, but the daily inspection capacity at designated car testing centres is limited at present. So, even if the daily quota is increased to 700 vehicles, the inspection capacity will still be insufficient, resulting in long queues. It is suggested that the Government should discuss with the Mainland counterparts to propose enhancement solutions.

The northbound travel for Hong Kong vehicles is actually a way to remove barriers for GBA. In the initial stage, it has an experimental nature; however, as more quotas are gradually opened up, the Government should also consider opening other land control points, such as the Heung Yuen Wai/Liantang Control Point, to remove barriers between Shenzhen and Hong Kong as well. Of course, as Shenzhen’s traffic is heavy, the governments of the two places should make road connections in advance and set appropriate daily quotas. Additionally, after the implementation of the Scheme, the traffic flow will increase significantly, and HZMB will become a main artery for the three regions of Hong Kong, Zhuhai and Macao. When planning the transport networks for the Northern Metropolis, the Government should also consider this strategic element of connecting the Northern Metropolis with the Kau Yi Chau Artificial Islands and HZMB through transport networks and enhancing the connectivity of other major trunk routes, thus making the future three core business districts of Hong Kong connected with the regions of Shenzhen, Zhuhai and Macao.

President, finally, I would like to talk about the “unilateral recognition” policy. Originally, one of the biggest obstacles to the Scheme was the issue of car insurance after crossing the boundary. However, the country has ultimately adopted a flexible and pragmatic attitude and introduced a new policy to solve the difficult problem properly. Hong Kong private cars only need to be insured in Hong Kong and no longer need to be insured in both places separately. This is the first step for the Hong Kong insurance industry to enter GBA, which is a good start. An important principle is to establish a standardized model for the two places. The industry hopes that future insurance businesses in the two places can also continue to be interconnected using a standardized model, including the Hong Kong Federation of Insurers’ latest proposal to draw reference from the successful experience of the Voluntary Health Insurance Scheme in Hong Kong and set up a private health insurance system in GBA to provide medical protection to the mobile population in GBA without geographical boundary.

In addition, the insurance industry would like to remind car owners who intend to travel north that the statutory insurance coverage for the Mainland’s “Compulsory Traffic Accident Liability Insurance for Motor Vehicles” is only RMB200,000, which is a significant difference compared to the insurance coverage of $100 million in Hong Kong. Car owners should consider whether the insurance coverage meets their needs before travelling north and consider seeking commercial insurance coverage as well when necessary.

Thank you, President.

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